The start of a new year is when many people make resolutions to get more exercise, eat a healthier diet, limit negativity, or otherwise improve their wellbeing. One way to ensure that you get the maximum benefit from those healthful habits is to begin the year with detoxification. Although your body has natural cleansing processes that are constantly working to eliminate toxins, our Portland natural medicine experts recommend some simple steps to enhance those processes.
Before you start to cleanse or detox your body, you will want to make sure your elimination systems are all open and ready to let go of toxins. Sweating, breathing, urination, and bowel movements are the primary ways that our bodies eliminate waste. Supporting these systems and the associated organs (skin, lungs, kidneys, large intestine, liver, and spleen) will ease and enhance your detox efforts. Our natural health clinic practitioners, whose specialties range from acupuncture and massage to chiropractic to naturopathic medicine, will work collaboratively to help you determine your best detox options.
10 Natural Ways to Detox
- Drink more water. Water is essential for our bodies to function properly, but most of us do not drink enough of it. Drinking more water helps our kidneys filter our blood, a critical part of our natural cleansing process. Water also helps keep our skin and lungs moist and healthy. About one third of our daily water loss comes through the skin (evaporation) and the lungs (respiration). Finally, water helps hydrate and soften our stools, allowing for more regular bowel movements and effective elimination through the large intestine.
- Sweat! Sweating is often the safest way to eliminate harmful substances from the body, as it does not require those substances to pass through the kidneys or liver. Sweating thereby reduces the burden on those organs and minimizes the possibility of damaging them through overuse. Regular physical activity that is vigorous enough to get you sweating will help optimize this elimination pathway.
- Breathe. Exercise plays a key role here as well. Aerobic or cardio exercise improves lung function and helps release toxins through respiration. Choose an activity that raises your heart and breathing rates, but doesn’t leave you breathless. Use the “talk test” as a guide—you should be able to carry on a conversation, otherwise you’re working too hard.
- Lighten your toxin load. Eliminate alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and refined sugars, which are all obstacles to overall wellness. In addition, reduce your use of chemical-based personal care products and household cleaners, replacing them with natural alternatives. Whenever possible, choose organic foods, especially when selecting fruits and vegetables with thin outer skins. Eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will not only enhance the quality of your diet, it will also add important fiber to your diet and improve the quality and volume of your bowel movements.
Now that you have your elimination systems working optimally and you’ve reduced the volume of toxins entering your body, let’s look at some additional tips that will help move stored toxins out through those systems.
- Breathe, again. In addition to your aerobic exercise, consider a few daily minutes of deep breathing, or try a mindful physical activity such as yoga or qigong. Yogic breathing is particularly cleansing in nature, as is the slow focused breathing of qigong. These types of exercise also stimulate and strengthen your waste removal systems (circulatory, digestive and lymph). An added benefit is the “mental detox” or stress reduction that typically comes from these practices.
- Get a massage. A licensed massage therapist is skilled at applying rhythmic strokes and pressure to your muscles, tissues, and organs. This releases toxins from your cells and stimulates your circulatory and lymph systems, helping them flush the toxins out of your body. Since it doesn’t have a pump like the heart, your lymph system depends on gravity, exercise, and massage to keep things moving. Your LMT will be able to make recommendations regarding the style and frequency of massage treatment that will be best suited for you.
- Consider acupuncture or acupressure. These modalities can be extremely helpful with detox, as they can be used to stimulate organs and systems all throughout your body. Our Portland acupuncture practitioners are experts at providing such treatments. In addition to helping with general detox, acupuncture clinics are also excellent places to get help and relief while detoxing after eliminating alcohol or drugs. These modalities can help relieve withdrawal symptoms and help you stick with your detox program.
- Dry skin brushing. Your skin is responsible for up to a quarter of your body’s daily elimination of toxins. One of the quickest and easiest ways to help your skin pass toxins out of your body is by dry brushing. This practice stimulates circulation and removes dead skin cells. The best tool for dry brushing is a natural bristle brush with a long handle, but you can also use a natural loofah or dry washcloth. You want to avoid anything that is made of non-biodegradable material, such as plastic scrubs. Our natural medicine experts usually recommend starting at the feet and hands, then slowly moving toward the heart with circular strokes. It is essential to drink plenty of water after a dry brushing session—this helps clear away the toxins you’ve just released.
- Hot and cold hydrotherapy. This naturopathic technique is particularly effective after a dry skin brushing session, but it can be done any time. The process is simple. First you start with a regular warm wash shower. When finished, turn the water to cold and remain in the shower until your body starts to feel cold. Then shift the temperature to comfortably hot. When your body starts to feel hot, shift back to cold. Repeat this cycle three times, making sure to end on cold water. The alternating water temperatures stimulate circulation and lymph flow by encouraging the skin and its entire vascular system to systematically pump and recycle with the changing of hot to cold temperatures. We invite you to learn more about the benefits of constitutional hydrotherapy, another healing modality we offer.
- Fasting. Many people choose to include a period of fasting into their yearly or seasonal detox process. There are different types of fasting, but they all have detoxification as one of their goals. With water fasting, you consume nothing but water. Many purists feel this is the truest and most powerful approach to fasting, but it should never be undertaken without supervision by a natural medicine expert. A less stringent approach is juice fasting, wherein you consume fruit and vegetable juice for the duration of the fast. Most experts recommend making your own juices at home rather than buying packaged juices from a store. This will help you ensure that you get the highest quality of fruits and vegetables, and it also lets you experiment with different flavors and combinations. A third approach is mono fasting. During this type of fast, you consume only one type of food (usually a fruit) for a period of time. While you are still consuming food, you are in effect giving your body a break from most foods that are harder to digest. Again, you should consult your natural medicine practitioner prior to any fasting plan, particularly if you have elevated blood sugars, heart disease, kidney disease, or other chronic medical concern.
These are just some of the many detox strategies you might choose to try in 2016. As we mentioned up top, be sure to prepare your elimination systems first before embarking on the actual detox. The benefits of doing an annual or seasonal detox are numerous, both physically and mentally. Heart Spring Health’s practitioners and physicians can collaborate to help you design a detox program that is the best fit for you, your goals, and your lifestyle.